Monday, March 18, 2013

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

7 Healthy Holiday Party Tips

Make the party about your relationships with the people…more talk less food and drink.
When we go to a party there are friends and acquaintances we want to join in conversation, some friends we are catching up with while some we are getting to know better and often we are meeting new friends.  As much as we like to make the party about the food if we stick to concentrating on the relationships we will eat less and enjoy more.  Focus on being a good listener and really hearing what friends are saying and talking about, make thoughtful and positive comments in return. You will leave the party with a greater sense of your friends and you will have consumed much less food.

Limit your alcohol consumption to one drink – one drink a day is more than enough alcohol so enjoy the party without the extra alcohol.
It is so easy to overindulge in your alcohol consumption when you are caught up in the excitement of the party, friends and good food.  We often are busy chatting and eating that our drinks are consumed quite mindlessly and before we know it the glass is empty. When you get to the party begin with a glass of water (sparkling water can be fun too), enjoy the water and get yourself hydrated. Once you have drained your water glass wait a few minutes before you get something else. When you do have your alcoholic beverage enjoy it and pay attention to how it tastes, what you like about it and why you are enjoying it. Once you have finished your one drink switch to something else nonalcoholic, either water or juice if it is offered. If you are really paying attention and merely sipping both the first glass of water and your one alcoholic drink you will find yourself satisfied without over indulging.

Have a snack before the party so you do not arrive starving and reaching for the most calorie-laden foods.
In the rush of preparing to go to a party we often arrive hungry and sometimes even feeling ravenous. That is the worst for us because we end up picking at all the foods loaded with fat and sugar and never feel satisfied. Instead take the time to care for yourself by planning your time and leaving time for a small meal or snack before you go to the party. Make the plan to eat before you begin getting ready for the party by making it a priority.  Getting to the party with food in your stomach also helps to put your focus on the party and your friends (see tip 1) and not on the food.

Going to a potluck? Bring something made with nutrient dense whole foods. Not only will you have something good to eat but your friends will be inclined to follow your example too.
It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the party and wanting to show off our fabulous cooking so we don’t always bring the most nutritious dish to share. Instead this year come up with some new and delicious dishes that all your friends will oh and ah over. Try a quinoa salad or a colorful veggie salad for something sweeter make a delicious fruit salad, if you want something warmer bring a crockpot full homemade vegetable soup. Not only will you have a healthy choice but your friends will have one as well!

Don’t stand near the food or the bar that will only lead to extra-unwanted food or drink.
How many times have you found yourself standing next to the buffet table and continuously eating all night?  Make a conscious choice to stand away from the table and plan which foods you will enjoy.  Decide what you will drink at the party before you go and then stick to that plan as well.

Avoid the little snacks like nuts or chocolates that are in the pretty little bowls. If you must reach for some of those snacks take only ONE, one nut or one small piece of chocolate may really be all you need to take the edge off.
How easy it is that we find ourselves picking away at the bowl of nuts or M &M’s and before we know it we have consumed 500 calories in nuts and chocolates. Yes they are pretty and a nice touch but stay away from them if at all possible and if not allow yourself to only have ONE. And before you reach for one nut visualize yourself enjoying the nut as you walk away from the bowl!

On your way to the party visualize yourself driving home from the party pleased with yourself for making healthy food /drink choices and not over indulging, see yourself happy and satisfied with all that you enjoyed at the party.
Remind yourself how awful it is to come home from a party only to feel bloated, stuffed and unhappy with your overconsumption of food and alcohol. Visualizing your excellent choices and the enjoyment of the party will help to solidify your plan at the party.  Have fun at the party and bring that happiness home with you, body, mind and soul!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Do You Have a Murmur of Negativity?

As I ponder life and my goals and dreams I realize that many of my thoughts tell me a negative story about mysef. What I now know is that these are my limiting beliefs, they are thoughts and beliefs that have been with me me since childhood. As many wonderful positive affirmations I can say to myself there is still a continual murmur of negativity always running in the background.

What are limiting beliefs? They are false beliefs that keep us from reaching our potential, from realizing our dreams and keeping us living below our potential. They are the thoughts that we keep thinking that keep us held back from reaching our dreams (or even reaching for our dreams).

The wonderful thoughts that are on the surface are all well and good but then we listen to the fleeting little thoughts that keep nudging us. You know the ones that pass through your mind at lightening speed, so much so that we often are not even aware of them.

Here’s how I see it. We have goals and dreams for all kinds of wonderful things and we can dream and visualize these ideas and make them as real as we want. Then they bubble up to the surface so we can begin to act on them. On the way to the surface these dreams and goals have to go through our filters which then attach to our judgments. 90% of the time these are negative beliefs we picked up in our childhood. Now our beautiful dreams are clouded by negativity and the pollution of our false beliefs.

Let’s talk more about where these limiting beliefs come from. As I mentioned they primarily come from our past and start as a small comment, thought or observation you picked up from someone else.  For instance in my case I often heard one of my parents comment about how overweight someone was in a derogatory voice implying that something was wrong with them. This happened over and over again so as I was growing up I came to believe that the person was less than because they were overweight. Although I had no real proof that there was anything wrong with them it was a judgment I carried from my past. As a result I had a prejudice about people who were overweight because of this belief I was taught from my parent. Imagine how I felt once I became that 'fat' person.

When I quit smoking the pounds crept onto your body and before I knew it I was 40 pounds overweight. My parent never made a comment about my size but I knew inside what his beliefs were and knew that these were my beliefs as well.  Now in my size 16 - 18 clothes I felt worthless, incompetent and my self-esteem has plummeted. To top all of that off I also had come to believe that losing weight was extremely difficult and could only be accomplished through starvation and deprivation.

So as a well-intentioned child I picked up the limiting belief that shaped what was to become an adult living a life of feeling less than and not living up to my potential because of a limiting belief about the way my body looked.

Of course awareness is key to changing the limiting beliefs so once I understood where these 'less than' thoughts originated I have been able to consciously make the change to the way I think about being overweight. I have been able to clean out the filter that was clogged with thoughts about being less than because I struggle with my weight. 

Instead of letting those limiting beliefs keep me in a place of fear and pain I have been able to release them and as well release some of the weight that was such a struggle. I still have issues with my food and weight but with more awareness of my limiting beliefs and being able to let them go I feel better every day!

What limiting beliefs are keeping you from reaching your goals and dreams?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cutting Back on Sugar

The reality is sugar is the enemy; it is the ingredient responsible for the spare tire many of us carry around our waists.  Sugar takes us down the road to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and more. The unfortunate part of all of this is that sugar is found in so many different foods that you don’t even expect, for instance ketchup has loads of sugar and All Bran cereal is full of High Fructose Corn Syrup. There are so many landmines of sugar in our daily food supply that it takes some diligence to avoid sugar just to decrease your consumption.  Below is a ten-step plan for decreasing the sugar in your daily diet and ultimately the goal is to eat as much nutrient dense whole food that does not have extra sugar added to it.

10 Step to Cutting Back Your Sugar Intake

     1.     Identify the areas where you have the most sugar
-       Do you have sugary drinks?
-       Do you eat sugary treats?
-       Do you add sugar to your coffee or tea?
-       Do you eat a lot of fast food or processed food?

     2.     Make the decision that you are ready to cut back on sugar.
-       Have you seen the problem with ingesting a lot of sugar?
o   Weight gain, mood swings, diabetes, poor health

     3.     Learn the sugar alias’
            For example
-       Corn sweetener
-       High Fructose Corn Syrup
-       Dextrose
-       Sucrose
-       Maltose
-       Honey
-       Agave

     4.     Pay attention to your foods, read labels and learn what foods you eat regularly have excess sugar in them.

     5.     Look at the foods you are willing to eliminate all together and then choose which foods you are willing to make substitutions ie. Plain yogurt with fruit instead of sugared yogurt.

     6.     Go through your kitchen and throw away any foods (processed foods) with sugar. Cleaning out your pantry will allow you to make shifts to healthier eating.

     7.     Plan your meals and snacks so you are not ravenous with no food planned, this often leads to a sugary snack that you want to avoid.

     8.     Make a conscious plan to have a special treat of something with sugar like ice cream, candy or baked goods. Enjoy every bite of it, as it is a food you are now eating with purpose and not mindlessly to fill a hole.

     9.     Remember this is a choice to have a healthier life with whole foods in abundance this is not about deprivation.  Fruit is an excellent alternative to sugary foods and the benefits are numerous.

     10.   Instead of rewarding yourself with sugary foods or drinks find something you enjoy but often don’t take the time for, such as a walk in the woods,  a quiet night with a loved one or a special place to enjoy a spectacular sun set. Rewards do not have to be food or things but moments in time.

     Do you need some more guidance or want to talk about your food. Please email me at

     - Helen

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's Time to Come Clean!

I decided today that it is time to come clean about my less then stellar eating habits and to let you know that although I know the best way to eat I do not always follow my own advice. It is not uncommon for me to have an excellent breakfast and lunch of delicious, nutrient dense whole foods but so often go down hill and before I know it I am eating ice cream, potato chips or chocolate.

Let me digress for a minute....
Until I was in my early thirties weight had never been an issue for me no matter what kind of food I ate. I attribute that to the fact that I was also a smoker and often had a cigarette to curb my appetite or just because it was easier to smoke than it was to prepare food. In 1994 I quit cigarettes and gained 50 pounds in a very short period of time. Of course without the cigarettes my sweet tooth grew out of control. I remember moving to Maine from California and thinking that all of these new friends will never have known me as a slim person and was disappointed with myself. I did continue to maintain that 50 pounds overweight for many years but still my sweet tooth was my driving force behind my food imbalance. I could eat brownies and ice cream while my kids were in school and then prepare them healthier foods when they were home. This went on for a few years until I met a doctor who taught me about the Zone diet. I maintained that diet for a few months and lost about 30 pounds. Then gradually one thing led to another and before I knew it I was back to my old tricks of eating all those sweet foods again and of course the weight came back on. That was the time I really began to read about nutrition and learn about the different diets from Atkins to the Zone.

Although I had a few bouts of managing my food and losing a few pounds, I still pretty consistently maintained my same overweight self. A couple of years ago I was managing a cafe in a health center, I had a white board that I specials posted to every day and there was always one little section that was left blank. One day I just wrote 'Helen's Health Tip' and wrote a tip about eating nutrient dense whole foods. I was intimidated because I wasn't a medical person and was amazed that doctors and nurses alike stopped to read my tips! I had been making and selling my own yogurt there and worked with customers to make healthy food choices so they already knew I was knowledgeable about food and nutrition. From there Helen's Health Tips blossomed and with the encouragement of friends I began a Facebook page and an email list. I am viewed as an authority on nutrition although I am not always able to practise what I preach.

Last winter, after much research I went on an anti fungal food plan. In a nutshell it is a food plan that eliminates sugar (in all forms) which in turn eliminates mycotoxins in the body. I loved the food plan and all the delicious food I ate and 40+ pounds just melted off. The bonus was that I felt fabulous, my confidence soared and I got to buy a whole new wardrobe. I was following my health tips and life was grand! As with most food plans that do not become lifestyles I began to sneak in a little bit of chocolate, ice cream and bread. Now I am 15 pounds heavier than I was last year and not happy with myself. The sugar makes me depressed which in turn lowers my confidence and I am a mess. Not to mention the shame I feel for being a fraud and not practising what I preach.

So here I am ready to tell you that I am changing my lifestyle to include nutrient dense whole foods while keeping processed foods to a minimum. Of course that means I have to pay attention to my emotional highs and lows that trigger my sweet tooth and be gentle and loving with  myself as I navigate the new road. I invite you to join me by coming clean with your eating habits and your intentions for moving to a healthier lifestyle. It is always easier when we do it together.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Make Your Own Yogurt

I make my own yogurt on a regualr basis and often get lots of folks asking me how to make it. Here are the simple instructions so you can also make your own yogurt!

I like to use whole or 2% milk because I believe it is better for you than fat free. I buy raw milk at the Farmer's Market whenever it is available and make each batch of yogurt with a 1/2 gallon of milk.

First heat the milk to 180F, this takes about 10 minutes on my small gas stove. I set my timer so I don't forget about it and have it boil over! If it does by chance boil then it is OK to let it cool down and continue.

Once it is at 180F take it off the stove and pour it into a big mixing bowl. I only do this because I think it will cool down quicker this way and it is easier to stir in the starter yogurt.

Cool the milk down to 110F, I find this usually takes about 45 minutes and again I set the timer because I tend to forget about it!

Next  add some yogurt from a last batch as a starter for the next batch, 
usually 6 or 8 ounces for a 1/2 gallon of milk

Mix in the yogurt so it is smooth and not lumpy

Ladle the mixture into containers for the finished yogurt. As you can see I like to use canning jars, they are economical, just the right size and easy for me to give to family and friends!

I put all the containers in a tray that will then go in to the 200F oven. 

Heat the oven to 200F and then make sure to turn it off. 
You want to keep the yogurt warm but not too warm! 
Sometimes I put the yogurt jars in a cooler with a warmed up heating pad
 any warm place will do.

I like to cover the jars with an old towel to keep in the warmth.

Notice what time it is when you put the yogurt in the oven

and 6 to 8 hours later take it out of the oven

You can see it is firmed up after the 6 to 8 hours in the oven

I like to eat it chilled with berries, cinnamon and sometimes 
with walnuts, almonds or oatmeal.

So now you know how to make your own yogurt!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Don’t be Fooled by the Labels

We go to the store to find all kinds of ‘healthy’ food and read all the fancy labels with the terms, natural, fresh and cage free that imply these foods were produced on a lovely farm with nothing but fresh air and nutrients from the soil. They want us to believe these foods are pure and natural and made with wonderfully intact organic ingredients.

Oh it is all a gimmick, it is ‘big foods’ way of trying to lure us into believing all those unhealthy, processed and packaged foods are really nutrient dense healthy foods.

Help me understand how it can be OK to put the words blueberry and pomegranate on the front of a cereal box and as well have pictures of those fresh fruits but then have nothing that even resembles either of those foods in the box of cereal.

Do you know what natural flavorings are? Really they are chemicals used to make something taste a certain way. Chemists in a lab create natural flavoring like artificial flavors and really there is nothing natural about them.  Do not be fooled by the term naturally flavored.

We get all twisted up about eating organic which can also lead us to misinformation. For instance if you are drinking organic soda, you are still drinking soda that is loaded with sugar and calories that will still spike your insulin levels and really is not any better for you than non organic soda. The other day I was buying fish and there was organic salmon in the case, which means the salmon was fed organic corn. I would prefer to eat wild caught salmon instead of farm raised or organic because it is still fed an unnatural diet of corn. Now if we are eating fruits or vegetables of course we want to eat organic but once we start processing the food eating the organic version is not that much more helpful.

Next time you are shopping for eggs, go to the Farmer’s Market and ask the farmer about his chickens.  The labels on the eggs in the grocery store says ‘cage free’ which leads me to believe these beautiful, happy chickens are communing with each other out of the cages and now have this happy little cage free life. Imagine my horror (and now yours) when we find out the term ‘cage free’ stipulates by the FDA that the chickens only be out of their cages for 5 minutes a day. They do not have to be outside and able to get fresh air either.

So you see the government and ‘big food’ want you to believe you are eating something you are not. They are trying to give us the impression that our food is all healthy and free from chemicals. Do you really thing 5 minutes a day makes a chicken cage free?

Go to your Farmer’s Markets and talk to the farmers. Ask them how they grow the food they are selling and know that you are getting what they say you are getting.  Secondly if you must buy processed foods look at the ingredients NOT the pretty pictures and descriptive words and better yet buy whole foods that do not require labels.

Thanks for letting me rant!